The Unborn As Persons

Author: A.L.L.


American Life League

Non-Person. n. A person whose expunction from the attention and memory of the public is sought, esp. by governmental action and usually for reasons of ideological or political deviation.

The American Heritage Dictionary. 1985, the Houghton Mifflin Company.

Anti-Life Philosophy.

We should not be surprised to find a human fetus looks like us; rather we would be amazed if it resembled an elephant. But a dead body also looks very much like us, yet does not prevent us from cutting that body, as in an autopsy, since the person is no longer there as the person is not yet there in the case of a fetus.

Back to the central issue of personhood and rights; other non-persons (pigs, cows) have toenails, heartbeats, and the capacity to feel pain (some say a fetus can only feel pressure, not pain, but we're not sure), yet these factors alone do not prevent the destruction of such entities.

It is a fact that the fetus is human life, but when do we accept that developing human life as a fellow human being? That question can only be answered according to our individual beliefs.

                                                                 National Abortion Rights Action League.[1]


As described in the previous two chapters, a rigorous analysis of the exact biological and social status of the unborn can only be performed in three steps.

The first, and most basic, level of analysis must answer the question: Are the unborn alive?

Chapter 69 has answered this strictly biological question in the affirmative.

The second step of the analysis is to further classify this living being as either human or non-human (there is no other possible classification there is no entity that is "partially human").

Chapter 70 has shown conclusively that this second strictly biological question results in the preborn being classified as human.

The final step of the analysis is the most difficult and slippery of all, because it deals with a social, not biological, classification. The third question: Is this living human creature a person, endowed with the same rights that accrue to all other persons? Or is it somehow less that human, subject to whatever abuse and genocide we may deem to visit upon its entire 'subspecies?'

This chapter examines the ideological question: Should society confer upon these preborn, living human beings the status of person?

The Pro-Abortionist's Last Stand.

I do think abortion is murder of a very special and necessary sort. What else would one call the deliberate stilling of a life? And no physician involved with the procedure ever kids himself about that ... legalistic distinctions among "homicide," "justified homicide," "self-defense," and "murder" appear to me a semantic game. What difference does it make what we call it? Those who do it and those who witness its doing know that abortion is the stilling of a life.

                                                                                                        Magda Denes.[2]

Pushing 'Em Back.

In the initial stages of its push for unlimited free abortions, the pro-abortion movement claimed that not only were preborn babies not persons, they were not even human or alive!

In the mid-1960s, the sciences of fetology and genetics were advanced to the point where there could be no possible question that the unborn were both human and alive.

The silly (and plainly dishonest) assertion that preborns were non-living, non-human beings led many leading pro-abortion 'thinkers' to make convoluted and twisted statements that are still good for laughs, even though they were committed 25 years ago. These quotes show how far anti-lifers will reach in their desperate attempts to dehumanize and trivialize the preborn.

One of the best examples was provided by Garrett Hardin, professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who is still making inane statements after all these years; "A set of blueprints is not a house; the DNA of a zygote is not a human being. There is no moral obligation to conserve DNA if there was, no man would be allowed to brush his teeth and gums, for in this brutal operation hundreds of sets of DNA are destroyed daily."[3]

The pro-abortion movement now realizes that it will continue to lose credibility with the American public if it doggedly insists that the preborn baby is not alive and not human. Any four-year old knows better. And the public does, too. The pro-life movement has gained thousands of recruits from pro-abortion organizations, because these people finally became fed up with the pro-abort's self-deceptive Newspeak and obvious close-mindedness to the basic facts of biology.

Denying Personhood.

The pro-abortionists have gradually been forced back in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence first into admitting that the preborn are, in fact, living; and secondly, that they are, indeed, human.

Their second to last chance to retain abortion is to deny unborn living human beings their personhood. One typical attempt is given us by 'bioethicist' Mary Anne Warren of the Hastings Institute;

If we are to make a reasoned judgment about the moral status of fetuses, and of nonhuman animals, alien life forms, intelligent machines and other problematic entities, we must develop a criterion of moral rights that is species-neutral. That is, it will not do to make 'genetic humanity,' or mere genetic affiliation to the human species, either a necessary or a sufficient condition for the possession of full moral rights.

[The criteria for personhood is] an entity that has the actual, not merely potential capacity for consciousness, complex, sophisticated perception, rationality, self-awareness and self-motivated behavior.[4]

Notice that Warren has defined 'personhood' in exactly the same manner that the Nazis did. Under the above definition, not only would newborn babies not be classified as persons, but "useless eaters" would be excluded as well: The comatose, the mentally handicapped, and the chronically drunk could be euthanized and disposed of under Warren's classification.

The current pro-abortion philosophy is desperately dangerous. As the quote by the National Abortion Rights Action League at the beginning of this chapter shows, pro-aborts now acknowledge that the preborn are alive and that they are human, but assert that a determination of 'personhood' can be left up to the individual.

In other words, the preborn baby is not a human being until its mother confers such humanity upon it with her will.


When we loftily decide, either on a personal or national level, that we can summarily deprive others of their rights, we are oppressing them.

The Neofeminists say that men have oppressed them by taking away their rights.

The Nazis oppressed the Jews and Gypsies and Catholics by taking away their rights.

Whites oppressed Blacks by taking away their rights.

And now the Neofeminists, in turn, feel justified in taking away the rights of the preborn with a mere thought.

The Nazis used this same slippery logic to define Jews as "living, human, but non-persons." When others protested against the resulting genocide, the Nazis used the same logic that NARAL does, only on a larger scale; they argued that the definition of 'personhood' should be set by individual nations.

For more detailed information on past instances of mass oppression, see Chapter 53, "Holocaust Analogy to Abortion," and Chapter 86, "Slavery Analogy to Abortion."

The Final Stand.

If pro-abortionists finally concede that the unborn really are persons, and if they continue to cling to their notion that these persons are expendable, they will have taken a philosophical step beyond even the Nazis, who acknowledged that Jews were human, but were not persons "in the real sense."

Some pro-abortion organizations have already taken this final step.

One of these groups is the 'Religious' Coalition for Abortion Rights, a pseudo-religious 'front' organization whose twin purposes are deception and infiltration/subversion.

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott stated in an RCAR propaganda pamphlet absurdly entitled "Respecting the Moral Agency of Women" that

Even if we were to concede the highly controversial and recent supposition that an embryo is a human person from the moment of conception, we would still be looking at only one very important value that has to be weighed against many other very important values, such as the quality of life that the unborn could look forward to after birth; the probable impact of that birth on the welfare of the already existing family; the mental health, wellbeing, and conscience of the potential mother; and the impact on society of laws that repress obedience to the dictates of conscience and remove a woman's control over her own destiny.[5]

In other words, Mollenkott is perfectly willing to dispose of entire classes of living human persons if those in power herself included, of course should decide that their existence is substandard in some way.

Note that Mollenkott's definition empowers the State to abort poor women against their will because their fetuses are "less persons" than those of the rich; in fact, the above statement is a very close parallel to the justification of the Chinese forced abortion program as described in Chapter 50.

Mollenkott's statement, of course, is a mere propaganda cover, and in no way restrains pro-aborts from acting in any manner that they please. As always, the only thing that matters for pro-aborts is that they be allowed to kill. The status of the unborn means nothing.

For example, Mollenkott says that "one very important value" is the "quality of life that the unborn could look forward to after birth."

Who is she trying to kid? If pro-aborts really cared about the quality of life of newborns, why do they so fanatically oppose any restrictions on pregnant women drinking or using dangerous drugs? Each year, 400,000 newborns come into this world adversely affected by their mother's drug or alcohol abuse. In a nationwide poll, 82 percent of respondents said that they considered it fair for courts to sentence pregnant drug users to treatment programs, and 68 percent would approve of arresting women who give birth to babies adversely affected by drugs, thus treating them like any other drug pusher. Ignoring these figures, columnist Anna Quindlen of the New York Times calls such beliefs tantamount to those of the "fetus police," and claimed that "freedom's just another word for being able to act stupid if you want to."[6]

We must wonder whether or not Quindlen would dismiss rape as just "acting stupid." What about wife-beating, Anna is that "just acting stupid?" How about driving drunk?

Implementing the Worldview.

Mollenkott's statement is certainly not "far out" when one realizes that her philosophy is already being applied on a vast scale in this country.

Our so-called 'halls of justice' ring with the voices of abortionists proclaiming that the preborn are human beings, babies but that abortion is legal, so they have no trouble with exterminating them.

Many judges have accepted this 'reasoning.' In a 1986 abortion clinic trespass case, The State of Virginia v. Christyanne Collins and Harry F. Hand, Judge Bruce Bach of Fairfax, Virginia stated in his opinion that

I will find as a matter of fact that unborn human lives were being terminated in the clinic that morning because that's what the evidence in this particular case is. And I am not a medical doctor. All of the evidence is that first trimester fetuses are human beings ... I reject the defense of necessity because we have in our society many instances of, I'll call it, State-sanctioned killing of human beings. And while the evidence is that human lives are being terminated, the Virginia statutes clearly allow the termination of human lives in the first trimester ... people at that clinic have a right under our law as it is today to do what they were doing and to do it without interference from people, well-meaning or otherwise ... So I do find them [the defendants] guilty and those are my reasons.[7]

The Spreading Stigma of Non-Personhood.

It is important to understand that while abortion does involve the taking of a human life because all life that is in and of a human being is human life in order to call it murder we would have to believe that prenatal life in the early stages of pregnancy is a human person and that there were absolutely no reasons that justified the taking of that life ... [However], you may feel you have reasons that justify abortion regardless of your beliefs about personhood.

Marjorie Reiley Maguire and Daniel C. Maguire of 'Catholics' for a Free Choice.[8]

The Pool of 'Nonpersons' Expands.

The process of revoking the humanity of a group of 'targeted' human beings must be performed slowly and with great care and vigilance.

As always when making 'advances' in bioethics, the first critical step is the hardest. Ask the Nazi 'doctors,' who began their entire program of genocide with the killing of a single handicapped infant, Baby Boy Knauer.

Once the first step is taken and public response is carefully monitored and found to be favorable or neutral all subsequent steps are much easier and smoother to achieve, especially if there is no organized outcry against the initial 'advance.'

In the United States, the first difficult step in the 'depersonization' of groups of helpless people was taken in 1973, when the Supreme Court, in its ridiculous Roe v. Wade decision, revoked not only the personhood of the preborn, but their very status as living beings as well, by labeling them "potential life."

The following two decades has seen subsequent steps come at smaller and smaller intervals until they have appeared to meld into a single, smooth headlong sprint down the 'slippery slope.'

This principle certainly holds true in the judicial system. Since 1973, the 'non-personhood' and privacy doctrines outlined in Roe v. Wade have justified the following, as more and more human beings have their personhood revoked;

• a Kentucky court held that a man who killed his estranged wife's 34-week baby by forcing his hand into her uterus and strangling the child could not be convicted of a crime because, as the Court noted, Roe v. Wade does not confer personhood on the unborn. (Hollis v. Commonwealth, 652 S.W.2d 61 (Ky. 1983)).

• wrongful birth suits, which are filed by parents who allege that a baby should have been aborted instead of born (Beaman v. Allen, 80 N.J. 421, 404 A.2d 8 (1979));

• letting handicapped newborns die a horrible death of starvation and thirst (American Academy of Pediatrics v. Heckler, 561 F.Supp.395 (D.D.C. 1983));

• the denial of heart surgery to a mentally handicapped toddler (Bothman v. Warren, 445 U.S. 949 (1980));

• the denial of cancer treatment to an elderly person (Supt. of Belchertown v. Saikewicz, 373 Mass. 728,370); and

• the cessation of respiratory aid to a comatose teenager (N.E.2d 417(1977), in re Quinlan, 70 N.J., 355/A.2d 647 (1976)).

Others would expand the pool of nonpersons even further than the court system has. The most extreme example of the "quality of life" mentality has (so far) been demonstrated by 'bioethicist' Joseph Fletcher. Fletcher has drawn up a comprehensive list of 'positive' and 'negative' human qualities that define exactly what a person is and is not, as shown in Figure 71-1.



(1) Minimal intelligence: Anyone with an IQ under 40 is questionably human. Anyone with an IQ less than 20 is definitely non-human.

(2) Self-awareness: Newborn babies are not self-aware and therefore not human. This quality develops at about one year of age.

(3) Self-control: If a person lacks self-control, he is on a low level of life comparable to a paramecium.

(4) A sense of time: Anyone without a good sense of the passage of time is not human.

(5) A sense of the future. How 'truly human' is any man who cannot realize there is a time yet to come?

(6) A sense of the past: A focus on 'nowness' truncates the nature of man.

(7) The capability to relate to others, particularly in relationships of the sexual-romantic and friendship kind.

(8) Concern for others: Lack of this ambience indicates psychopathology.

(9) Communication: Completely isolated individuals are sub-persons.

(10) Control of existence: Ignorance and total helplessness are the antithesis of humanness.

(11) Curiosity: Without a certain amount of curiosity, individuals are not persons deserving legal rights and protections.

(12) Change and changeability: If an individual is opposed to change, he denies the creativity of personal beings.

(13) Balance of rationality and feeling: To be 'truly human,' one cannot be either Apollonian [extremely rational and logical in character] or Dionysian [of frenzied and emotional character].

(14) Idiosyncrasy: To be a person is to have an identity, to be recognizable and callable by name.

(15) Neo-cortical function: Before cerebration [thinking] is in play, the person is non-existent. Such individuals are objects, not subjects.


• Man is not non-artificial or anti-artificial.
• Man is not essentially parental.
• Man is not essentially sexual.
• Man is not a bundle of rights. All rights are imperfect and may be set aside 
   if human need requires it.
• Man is not a worshipper.

Reference: Joseph Fletcher. "Indicators of Humanhood: A Tentative Profile of Man." Hastings Center Report. Volume 2, Number 5, November, 1972.

If implemented, Fletcher's criteria would cause more than 100 large groups of persons to instantly lose their humanity. These groups would include the following, and would comprise approximately one-fifth of the human population;

• all infants under one year of age;
• twins and triplets;
• all celibate persons;
• the mentally handicapped;
• habitual drunkards and drug addicts;
• prisoners;
• all comatose persons;
• pro-life activists;
• emotional persons; and
• all religious persons.

Fletcher would casually kill the 260,000 United States citizens with IQs of less than 25, and the 630,000 with IQs of from 25 to 49.[9]

It seems that every advocate of euthanasia for the handicapped is able-bodied and healthy. Why don't we take a page from the pro-abortionists who say that men have no right to oppose abortion because they can't get pregnant? We could say to these pro-eugenics and pro-euthanasia people "You have no right to advocate euthanasia for the handicapped unless you yourself are handicapped."

If everyone on Fletcher's list were eliminated, we would certainly have a more perfect (and more soulless) world.

And Now "Neomorts!"

It is not only the preborn who are in danger of having their personhood permanently revoked by the medical elitists and utilitarians. Whenever there is a perceived biomedical need, and whenever there is a group of persons at hand who cannot defend themselves, there we will find the ghouls ready to pounce.

Dr. Willard Gaylin, former President of the Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences (the "Hastings Institute"), shows that, once the 'personhood' of one class of human beings has been revoked, it is very easy to do the same to others.

Gaylin would like to see comatose persons (he calls them "neomorts") stockpiled in special repositories (called "bioemporiums") for organ harvesting and experimentation.

One of Gaylin's colleagues approvingly writes that

Neomorts would provide a steady supply of blood, since they could be drained regularly ... Bone marrow, cartilage, and skin could be harvested, and hormones, antitoxins, and antibodies manufactured in neomorts ... To do this, [Gaylin] notes, we would have to accept the concept of "personhood" as separate from "aliveness" for adults, as we do now with fetuses.[10]

The Christian Response.

Highlight Glaring Pro-Abortion Hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy of the pro-death position is absolutely breathtaking and should be highlighted at every opportunity.

The pro-aborts will fight for more handicapped parking slots at supermarkets, but stand silently by while handicapped newborns are starved to death in nurseries all over this country.

The pro-aborts set up shelter for battered and abused women, but approve of and facilitate sex-selection abortions that are directed almost exclusively towards exterminating those preborn children whose sole birth defect is that they are female.

And they will have sign-language experts translate all speeches at pro-abortion rallies for the benefit of those who are deaf, while they simultaneously fight to kill all preborns who are handicapped in the slightest.

Caring for All of God's Creations.

Hypocritical pro-aborts will often hiss at pro-life picketers and sidewalk counselors: "How many unwanted or handicapped children have you adopted?" The answer is irrelevant, of course: It doesn't matter what the pro-lifer answers. Even if he or she has adopted two or three handicapped babies, the pro-abort will still find fault.

It is interesting indeed to note that there is not a single pro-abortion crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in the entire country. There are no pro-abortion homes for the handicapped. And individual pro-aborts simply do not adopt or foster unwanted kids.

This is logical, since the anti-life mentality strives to be free of any and all limits to personal freedom.

Christian organizations, on the other hand, operate more than two thousand crisis pregnancy centers and an equal number of homes for severely handicapped.

As always, the Church is left to pick up the mess caused by secular 'revolutions;' while the Humanists go on their merry and selfish way, discarding little human beings who do not fit into their program of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, there will always be Christians standing ready to accept those people who the self-proclaimed "inclusive and tolerant" Humanists simply reject.

And it will always be so, just as it should be.

And What About Penalties?

There are several issues that each pro-life activist must eventually deal with when fighting abortion and related atrocities.

Perhaps the most difficult and painful of these questions revolves around whether or not women who obtain abortions should be punished along with their abortionists, should the procedure ever again be declared illegal.

Very occasionally, pro-abortion writers will pose difficult hypothetical situations that must be firmly and honestly addressed. One speaker at a 1992 National Abortion Federation second-trimester abortion conference outlined such a question;

If prenatal human beings are to be recognized as full-fledged persons, it follows that those who kill them for reasons less compelling than self-defense must be recognized as full-fledged murderers and treated as such. Those who are rigorously opposed to allowing elective abortion on the ground that prenatal human beings are persons must confront this implication sincerely and sensitively, and they must be explicit about what they are willing to accept as the practical implications of their position. If they are not willing to accept that those who abort should be subject to exactly the same treatment as others who murder, then they need to recognize that they do not really believe that prenatal human beings have the moral status of persons. And this is true of those who hold that such matters should be left up to the individual states, since states are not, in other cases, free to allow those who murder innocent persons to be at large in the community.[11]

This statement is obviously a smooth attempt by the speaker to paint aborting women as double victims and pro-lifers as inconsistent hypocrites, but the implications raised by the NAF must be answered.

There is a lot to be said for the NAF's position. If pro-lifers really feel that the preborn are full members of humanity, and that their killing really is murder, we must demand some sort of punishment for women who abort. This may seem heartless, but remember that, as Chapter 87 shows, more than 95 percent of all abortions are obtained for purely economic or social reasons. One effective way of choking off the majority of this stream of convenience abortions and abortions for birth control would be the institution strict legal sanctions.

After all, we don't allow women in 'desperate situations' to dispose of newborns, do we? Nor do we allow 'consumers' of illegal goods go scot-free. Drug users get busted right along with their pushers. And those who possess illegal automatic and other weapons wind up in a cell next to their sellers. And, of course, those people who put a successful contract out on another human being are tried for murder along with the trigger man.

Therefore, it would be ethical and consistent for pro-lifers to demand some kind of penalty for aborting women, because they have hired 'hit men' abortionists to kill their preborn children.

There are other reasons that pro-lifers should work for jail terms for women who obtain abortions. As described in Chapter 18 of Volume I, "Pro-Abortion Illegal Activities," many Neofeminists, in anticipation of abortion restrictions, are gearing up "underground railroads" and "Jane networks," where women will abort each other. The only answer to such dangerous activities is some sort of penalty.

If pro-aborts (or pro-lifers, in some cases) say that this is a brutal or inhumane position, we must ask them this question: What is more inhumane, for a woman to sit in a jail cell or for a preborn to face the death penalty without hope of appeal?

Finally, if abortion is to be made a crime, is there to be no punishment for the person who arranges the crime? There is no parallel to such a situation anywhere else in the law, with one exception a successful suicide. A law without sanctions is an absurdity, and utterly useless on its face.

References: The Unborn As Persons.

[1] Looseleaf booklet entitled "Organizing for Action." Prepared by Vicki Z. Kaplan for the National Abortion Rights Action League, 250 West 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019. 51 pages, no date.

[2] Magda Denes. "Performing Abortions." Commentary Magazine, October 1976, pages 33 to 37. A truly frightening and profoundly sickening article by a doctor who observes and describes in graphic detail a number of saline abortions and their results. She acknowledges that abortion is killing, but a type of "necessary" killing. Also see the "Letters" sections in the December 1976 and February 1977 issues of Commentary Magazine.

[3] Garrett Hardin, professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Quoted in Redbook Magazine, May 1967. Also quoted on page 101 of Ruth Barnett. They Weep On My Doorstep. Beaverton, Oregon: Halo Publishers, 1969.

[4] Mary Anne Warren. "Can the Fetus be an Organ Farm?" Hastings Center Report, October 1978.

[5] Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. "Respecting the Moral Agency of Women." Propaganda issued as an "Educational Pamphlet" by the 'Religious' Coalition for Abortion Rights.

[6] Anna Quindlen, quoted in Edward Tivnen. "Drugs, Lies, Privacy: The Tough Ethical Questions We Face." Family Circle, April 1, 1992, pages 40 to 44.

[7] "Judge in Virginia Trespass Case Acknowledges 'State-Sanctioned Killing.'" ALL News, April 25, 1986, page 3.

[8] Marjorie Reiley Maguire and Daniel C. Maguire. "Abortion: A Guide to Making Ethical Decisions." 'Catholics' for a Free Choice," September 1983.

[9] Joseph R. Stanton, M.D. "From Feticide to Infanticide." Human Life Review, Summer 1982 pages 35 to 45.

[10] World Trends and Forecasts. "Recycling Human Bodies to Save Lives." The Futurist, April 1976, page 108.

[11] James W. Knight and Joan C. Callahan. Preventing Birth: Contemporary Methods and Related Moral Controversies. University of Utah Press, 1989, pages 220 and 221. Also contained as an extract in National Abortion Federation. Second Trimester Abortion: From Every Angle. "Fall Risk Management Seminar, September 13-14, 1992, Dallas, Texas. Presentations, Bibliography & Related Materials." 1992.

Further Reading: The Unborn As Persons.

Paul B. Fowler. Abortion: Toward an Evangelical Consensus
Portland: Multnomah Press, 1987. 222 pages. Reviewed by John Jefferson Davis on page 5 of the May 14, 1987 National Right to Life News. The author traces the roots and social forces that decimated the Christian consensus against abortion before Roe v. Wade, and argues against the statement that the unborn are only 'potential persons.' The best part of the book is a comprehensive examination of what Scripture says about life, death, and the unborn. Mr. Fowler also challenges all Christians to do what they can to end the abortion holocaust.

Peter Kreeft. The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion
Order from: Life Issues Bookshelf, Sun Life, Thaxton, Virginia 24174, telephone: (703) 586-4898. Reviewed by Richard Doerflinger on page 5 of the November 24, 1983 issue of National Right to Life News. This book shows that all arguments for and against abortion are reduced to one primary position: That the unborn are or are not persons. It is also a valuable debating tool in that it shows pro-lifers how to master the Socratic method of clarifying issues and their underlying themes through logic and directed questioning.

Sean O'Reilly, M.D. Bioethics and the Limits of Science
Christendom College Press, Route 3, Box 87, Front Royal, Virginia 22630. 1980, 176 pages. Reviewed by Robert E. Joyce, Ph.D. in the Fall 1980 issue of the International Review of Natural Family Planning, pages 274 to 276. Recommended for college students working in a Christian context. This book covers the definition of life and person, how technology has complicated the debate, the norms of bioethics, the definition of death, and a description of false and true humanist ethics and the foundation of Christian ethics and the authority of the Church.

© American Life League BBS — 1-703-659-7111

This is a chapter of the Pro-Life Activist’s Encyclopedia published by American Life League.